The Other Kind of Prep: The Ugly Side of Competing

Happy four days out!

 

Yesterday I had my last private posing lesson, and it finally feels like it’s coming together as a routine. I’ve been practicing in the mirror, taking iPhone recordings, pretending my husband and the cat are judges, and finally, my body is picking up the muscle memory to where I don’t have to think about every piece any longer, my body knows where it ought to be for the most part, and I can focus on smaller details- hand placement, moving my feet in a less-awkward manner that looks more put-together, smaller adjustments that make for a more cohesive package, rather than a bunch of jumbled bits that result in some awkwardly held poses on stage. I have one, final posing assessment with the team on Wednesday evening, following my largest carb-up, and I’m so excited!

Annnnd, at the last minute, a posing change based on how my body has changed in the past week… par for the course!

My day wasn’t all excitement. In fact, it started in shock and sadness. Remember back when I talked about what and how I eat, both on prep and off (because it’s pretty close to the same)? It turns out not everybody has such a balanced approach. While I know of many, many competitors who operate off of a coach-produced meal plan, any reasonable coach will have based that meal plan off of several factors- the same ones I build my macros from: an individual’s body composition, their goals, and their lifestyle- it needs to be a feasible meal plan that a person can adhere to in order for it to be effective. Any coach worth anything will have taken all of these things into account before creating a meal plan for a client.

 

As a disclaimer, I am not, nor have I ever claimed to be, a coach to anyone but myself. To do so, or to create and dispense meal plans, is completely illegal. However, I do consider myself fairly knowledgable on the topics of fitness and nutrition, and if a friend comes to me for help, I am more than happy to get them started on a path to success. I will never write a meal plan, but I will give them resources from which to learn, I will explain how calories and macronutrients work, how each plays an important role in the body, how different adaptations and processes are affected by each.

 

But not every coach is a good coach. In fact, not every “coach” is even a coach. This has recently become quite a kerfuffle, with people who have one or two competitions under their belt, but no other qualifications, deciding that they are now able to “coach” others into competitions as well, and charging money. Take a look on Instagram, for example. I would venture to say that almost none of the self-proclaimed coaches and meal plan providers have done any schooling or have any certifications that qualify them to be handing out dietary advice to anyone. But they’ll certainly take your money if you’re willing enough to give it to them. They’ll take your money and email you the same meal plan they’ve emailed dozens of other people without regard to your body composition or caloric and macronutrient needs, your goals, or your lifestyle. Some of them are well-meaning, and simply don’t know any better. They’ve been similarly prepped, and don’t know what the long-lasting ramifications, the metabolic adaptations, the micronutrient deficiencies can do to a body.

 

A friend of a friend happens to be one of the people who unwittingly subjected themselves to one such plan, on the road to her first bikini competition. By luck or by chance, or by my caring nature, I took note of her prep. She never asked for help, but I expressed a quiet concern, and offered my help in her post-show nutrition, as being on a restrictive diet for a long period can leave your body primed for fast fat gain, and I didn’t want her to end up in a rough position. She gladly accepted my offer, and we met this morning, to get everything set up so that she was ready right away after the show with a reverse diet. I had her email me her meal plan, so I knew what I was starting with, and I was not prepared for what I found.

I won’t attach it, because I’m not at all advocating eating what was on the plan. But the plan, which extended about 20 weeks, completely unchanged, consisted of only 4 foods- so-called “clean foods” – tilapia, asparagus, sweet potato, and egg whites- eaten split across six meals in 14 hours, totaling under 1000 calories. The protein was around 175g, for a 115 pound person, which ends up being an outlandish 75% of the total caloric consumption daily. Simply, this meal plan was a recipe for malnutrition and kidney disfunction, as well as a host of other health problems. (I should also add that I recommended she see a doctor for some blood panels, based on some of the information she told me.)

You like tilapia and asparagus? Good. Here’s two day’s worth of meals. Repeat for three months.

I was deeply saddened, and, well, I’m a teacher, so I felt, more than anything, the need to teach her. To teach her how to take control of her own  diet, her own prep, her own body. To teach her how to succeed in fitness and not think that this is the way, that it’s hard and awful and tasteless.

 

And so that’s just what I did. Armed with a couple of articles explaining macros, a notepad, a pen, and a whole collection of highlighters (fun fact: everything I own is somehow color-coded or organized by color), I hopped on my bike and met her over coffee, and taught her how to get started. I showed her what her plan entailed, and what it should more ideally look like, and I told her my plan of how to get there. Slowly, week by week, lower the protein, increase carbs and fats, bring up overall calories, adjust according to how the body reacts. No planning ahead for two weeks, three weeks, twelve weeks ahead. Listening to the body, recording what it says, how it reacts, and adjusting accordingly. Totally individualized, 100%, and totally independent, no reliance on someone who may or may not know a damn thing. No food restrictions whatsoever, how freeing!

Yes, girl, even these, I know you’ve been holding onto them!

 

Armed with a plan for after the show, and a plan for the remainder of her peak week, my friend headed to the grocery store, smiling. I could see the relief spread across her face, as she went to buy things like bread, and zucchini, for the first time in months. Just consider that. Being happier than you have in weeks, over a squash.

I’m so excited and honored that she is trusting me, even after this other person messed with her nutrition so intensely, to help her fix her body.

She’s a real fucking champion to have stuck it out for all this time, and that’s how I know she’s going to stick with her post-show plan. She’s going to make it, and come out stronger, more educated, and more in-tune with her body.

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